What a god­sent Xmas box for the world!’

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - - AGENDA - Source: Aus­tralian War Me­mo­rial

Danc­ing, mu­sic, laugh­ter and love greeted the end of World War I, and Aus­tralian ser­vice­men and nurses couldn’t wait to break the news in let­ters and di­aries: “We’re com­ing home.“Here, we present four of th­ese mis­sives which cap­ture the shock, re­lief and raw emo­tion of war’s end

Dear Mother

An­other week has gone by, won­der­ful to re­late, tho’ it is hard to be­lieve in a way; things have been pretty much as usual dur­ing the week … to­day is . dull, cold wind and looks like snow to come. Last night for 24 hours I had the doubt­ful hon­our of be­ing one of the guard at the pris­on­ers of war cage and here I am still, writ­ing in the guard room, one the Fritz dug out, where his of­fi­cers on the am­mu­ni­tion dump he used to have here, used to re­side. It is a tun­nel well un­der­ground, walled with ele­phant iron (a kind of glo­ri­fied cor­ru­gated stuff, very heavy), with a duck­board floor, five wire bunks, a stove … It was per­ish­ing cold on guard, six hours out of the night por­tion, but it’s not as bad now it’s day­light …

By JOVE!!! Crikey!!! What shall I say? We’ve just had a breath­less bombardier … rush into the dugout, fall over the bed at the end and shout out some glo­ri­ous news – can’t re­peat it, as it’s strictly against or­ders to men­tion the sub­ject … but you first note the date! Only hope this is dinkum as he swears it is! What a god­sent Xmas box for the world! … Funny how calmly they all take it though, con­sid­er­ing the tremen­dous thing it is …

Well I must cease for lack of news for the old rea­son – can’t tell you of it and also the can­dle’s gut­ter­ing; must wait till our ra­tions come, with more light. I sou­venired a splen­did Jaeger wool cap, one that they is­sue to the Royal Horse ar­tillery. I’m go­ing to bring it home with me, it’s a splen­did thing – thick, soft fleece, khaki in colour, you can pull it down like a bal­a­clava.

Hush – I have also a beau­ti­ful Fritz sou­venired shooter too – hope I can get it home.

Much love – please ex­cuse the un­tidi­ness

Your lov­ing son Keith

ON the 11th of November, 1918, Gun­ner Keith Shad­forth Dowl­ing of Neu­tral Bay, aged 29, was cold and mis­er­able, guard­ing pris­on­ers of war in an un­der­ground tun­nel and writ­ing to his mother by the light of a gut­ter­ing can­dle. He in­ter­rupted his own let­ter when a breath­less mes­sen­ger burst into the tun­nel with news of peace. Dowl­ing, who had en­listed in 1917, served in the Field Ar­tillery Bri­gade as a gun­ner and was as­signed to the 107th Aus­tralian How­itzer Bat­tery, serv­ing along the Western Front. He served in WWII in a gar­ri­son bat­tal­ion in Aus­tralia and died in 1971.

Let­ter from Beau­mont, Bel­gium,14 March 1919

Dear Her­bert and Jess I have just spent 6 of the hap­pi­est days in my life in Brus­sels and An­twerp and it re­ally breaks my heart to have to come back here, in this for­saken filthy town of Beau­mont …

Talk about a mag­nif­i­cent city, Brus­sels beats all I have seen. As soon as I ar­rived there I seemed to be pos­sessed with an unparalleled feel­ing of hap­pi­ness, which I never ex­pe­ri­enced be­fore in my life. It seems to be in the air along the Boule­vardes in the cafes. Ev­ery­one so happy and al­ways laugh­ing. You feel in­clined to go back with­out leave. And beau­ti­ful girls, not patched up, but with nat­u­ral beauty. In the cafes it is sim­ply one roar all night of mu­sic and clink­ing of wine­glasses. Girls smil­ing and cig­a­rettes and also danc­ing up and down be­tween the ta­bles. The Aus­tralian there is out on his own high above the Amer­i­cans, Pom­mies, Cana­di­ans and New Zealan­ders. I am not pulling your leg.

But every Aussie, you see, whether ugly, good-look­ing, tall or small has ei­ther one or two girls linked on his arm. I vis­ited a Bel­gian fam­ily whose fa­ther was a judge in the Bel­gian Congo and they could not have treated King Ge­orge bet­ter than they did me. The Aus­tralians have a mag­nif­i­cent name as fight­ers in Brus­sels.

I do not like to say it but the English sol­diers have a very poor name in Brus­sels as re­gards fight­ing qual­i­ties. The wife of the Bel­gian judge told me that the English sol­diers failed in a lot of bat­tles. I don’t want you to say much about it to any­one, but I fell in love with Claire, the daugh­ter, a jolly, al­ways merry, beau­ti­ful girl and we spent some pleas­ant hours to­gether. She can speak English a lit­tle and I was teach­ing her for a while. She is a high-class sort of girl and gave me her photo with some writ­ing on the back.

Well Her­bert and Jess I will now close. Give my love to lit­tle Thora and hope you are both well.

Your lov­ing brother Norman

NORMAN Charles Bri­er­ley, born in An­nan­dale, was a 2121 year-old Queens­land farmer when he left for war in 1917, and wrote fre­quently to brother Her­bert and sis­ter-in­law Jess, sign­ing off his let­ters with a kiss for their young daugh­ter Thora. He served in the 31st Bat­tal­ion in France and wrote ear­lier in the war: “I of­ten long for sunny Aus­tralia bright & free from curses of war. It is the best & clean­est place I have been in & no one is get­ting me out of it af­ter the war,” he wrote ear­lier in the con­flict. On Ar­mistice Day he was in the Somme Val­ley, near Amiens, in France’s north.

JU­BI­LA­TION: Bris­bane res­i­dents mark the end of World War I with a vic­tory pa­rade along Queen Street on 23 November, 1918; and women and chil­dren cel­e­brate in Townsville (right).

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